The value of human life

After the massacre in Tunisia on Friday, I have been reflecting on what I believe about the value of human life. In one sense, it is incredibly fragile and can be snatched away in an instant by a radicalised individual with a gun. Yet, as the shocked and bewildered begin to tell their survival stories, we also see the resilience and personal dignity of human beings. The woman who played dead at the feet of the gunman as he reloaded his weapon, the man whose wife’s handbag took the bullet meant for him and the courage of the fiancee who was willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the one he loved. So many acts of bravery, compassion and selflessness in the midst of the horror perpetrated by one man consumed by a cause for which he killed tourists sunbathing on a beach.

The Bible too, seems to reflect this tension. Psalm 103 says, “A person’s life is like grass. Like a flower in the field it flourishes, but when the hot wind blows by, it disappears, and one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew.” But the Psalmist also asserts, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, the sons and daughters of man that you care for them? You made them a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Psalm 8, verses 4-6) And Jesus says of our worth, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). While God remembers we are dust and has infinite compassion upon us in our fragility, She also bestows upon us eternal glory because of our intrinsic value which She won for us by sacrificing Her only son.

How do we then live in the light of this wisdom? It seems to me a difficult balance to negotiate. We need to be self aware enough to recognise the power entrusted to us which can positively transform our world or do untold damage and destruction. At the same time, we must consider our own weakness and mortality. This is not to be morbid or depressing but realistic so that we might celebrate and squeeze the most out of life, for we do not know when it will end. It can also help us re-evaluate priorities. For those caught up in the horrors of last Friday, it became all too clear that their most urgent need, other than staying alive, was to say I love you to those they held most dear.

I think what we all need in the days ahead is hope. Hope that terror will not win. Hope that darkness will never put out the light. Hope that love will ultimately triumph over fear and despair. I wonder if we also need to regain a hope that this life is not all there is. Actually we have an eternal purpose and destiny that is assured when we put our trust in Christ. What is beyond is a great mystery and the unknown is always frightening. However, I was recently introduced to a wonderful poem called ‘I never wanted to be born’ which contrasts the uncertainties we had at birth with those we experience as we contemplate death. It is by John L. Bell and I will share it with you in it’s entirety…

“I never wanted to be born.

The older I grew,
the fonder I became of my mother’s womb
and it’s warmth
and it’s safety.

I feared the unknown:
the next world,
about which I knew nothing
but I imagined the worst.

Yet, as I grew older,
I sensed in my soul
That the womb was not my home forever.

Though I did not know when,
I felt sure that one day
I would disappear through a door
which had yet to be opened,
and confront the unknown
of which I was afraid.

And then,
it happened.

In blood, tears and pain,
it happened.

I was cut off from the familiar;
I left my life behind
and discovered not darkness but light,
not hostility but love,
not eternal separation
but hands that wanted to hold me.


I never wanted to be born.

I don’t want to die.

The older I grow,
the fonder I become
of this world
and it’s warmth
and it’s safety.

I fear the unknown:
the next world,
about which I know nothing
but imagine the worst.

Yet as I grow older,
I sense in my soul
that this world is not my home forever.

Though I do not know when,
I feel that one day
I will disappear through a door
which has yet to be opened.

Perhaps having come so safely through the first door,
I should not fear so hopelessly the second.”

Written originally for the funeral service of a group of teenagers who had been killed in a car crash.

Aramaic Lord’s Prayer

prayer at sunset
This translation of the Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic into English was posted by Janet Sutton Webb on Facebook. It really resonated with me.

O cosmic birther of all radiance and vibration!

Soften the ground of our being and carve out a space within us where your presence can abide.

Fill us with your creativity so that we may be empowered to bear the fruit of our mission.

Let each of our actions bear fruit in accordance with our desire.

Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share what each being needs to grow and flourish.

Untie the tangled threads of destiny that bind us,

as we release others from the entanglements of past mistakes.

Do not let us be seduced by that which would divert us from our true purpose,

but Illuminate the opportunities of the Present Moment.

For you are the ground and the fruitful vision,

The Birth Power and the Fulfillment,

and All is gathered and made whole once again.

by Mark Hathaway, published in The Cygnus Review 2003 Issue 3
Here is the link